As a parent, you want what’s best for your child throughout every stage of life. It can be difficult to let go as they grow into adulthood, especially when you have fond memories of the stages in their life when they relied on you for everything. Enabling is a dysfunctional behavior that occurs in many families, and it is often unintentional.
Signs of Enabling
While there’s nothing wrong with helping your children when they ask you to, enabling your child well into adulthood may be holding them back instead of equipping them with the tools they need to succeed.
As a parent, it’s essential to understand the difference between supporting and enabling. Here are some signs that you’re enabling your grown child or children:
- They live with you, or you pay some or all their bills.
- You shield them from any negative consequences of self-destructive behavior like substance abuse by making excuses for them.
- They haven’t found a job even after graduating from school.
- You always put your child first, even if it means ignoring your needs and wants.
- Your relationship with your child is one-sided and causes you emotional or financial distress.
- You manage many tasks your adult children should be capable of handling themselves, such as doing their laundry, cleaning, cooking, shopping for them, etc.
Why Is Enabling Harmful?
It’s natural to want to protect your children from hardships and mistakes, regardless of how old they are. You may struggle to accept that your grown children are making life choices without asking you for advice. Many parents automatically try to remove all obstacles from their children’s path, even if doing so may prevent them from growing into resilient, capable and well-adjusted adults.
By enabling your children, you are neglecting the essential parental responsibility of teaching them independence, confidence and the value of hard work. At some point, you must face the fact that you are doing them a disservice by taking care of everything for them. Adults who lack practical life skills such as laundry, cooking, grocery shopping, housework and balancing a budget may struggle to make their way in the world. They may also lack emotional maturity and resilience that cause or worsen addictive patterns.
Enabling vs. Empowering
Learning to move from enabling to empowering your grown children can strengthen your relationship in the long run. With a few simple changes, you can put your adult children on a better path. Stopping enabling doesn’t mean you no longer love your child – in fact, it’s the opposite. It means you start expecting them to take responsibility and create a life that’s fully theirs.
It’s easy to get caught up in the desire to solve your grown child’s problems and make decisions for them. But when your children grow into adulthood, you need to come to terms with how your role in their life should change over time. That starts with transforming your mental image of them from a helpless child to an adult who can take care of themselves.
Healing as a Family
Family therapy at Hemet Valley Recovery and Sage Retreat can help you and your grown child work through complex emotions, including confusion, anger, guilt, resentment and stress. It can teach you how to set and maintain boundaries, explore pathways to change and recognize signs of dysfunction in your relationships.
To learn how you can gain new insights through our family programming, reach out to us today.